‘Maharashtra cabinet expansion likely on Dec 30; Ajit Pawar may be back as deputy CM’

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Mumbai | Published: December 23, 2019 10:09:29 PM

Amid talks of imminent expansion of the cabinet, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP president Sharad Pawar held discussions for nearly one hour at the Sahyadri Guest House here in evening.

Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, had served as deputy chief minister for two truncated terms when the Congress-NCP was in power before 2014.

The much-awaited expansion of Maharashtra cabinet is likely to be delayed further to December 30, an NCP leader said on Monday night, adding that senior leader Ajit Pawar could make a comeback as a deputy chief minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led government.

Amid talks of imminent expansion of the cabinet, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP president Sharad Pawar held discussions for nearly one hour at the Sahyadri Guest House here in evening. No leader of the ally Congress was present at the meeting, NCP sources said.

When asked about the exact date of the cabinet expansion, the NCP leader told PTI: “It is likely to happen on December 30. And Ajit Pawar is expected to take oath as deputy chief minister”. He said the exercise will be carried out after holding discussions with the Congress.

Ajit Pawar, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, had served as deputy chief minister for two truncated terms when the Congress-NCP was in power before 2014. He had pulled off a coup by joining hands with the BJP on November 23 this year and taking oath as dy CM under the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis, who was sworn in as the CM.

However, the government lasted for barely 80 hours, after Ajit resigned as deputy chief minister citing personal reasons. Though senior Pawar had hinted that his nephew’s political rehabilitation could be a long-drawn process, a section of leaders in the NCP and party workers had rooted for Ajit Pawar to join the Thackeray government. The Sena, NCP and the Congress are constituents of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government that came to power on November 28 this year.

On the same day, six ministers from all the three parties, apart from Thackeray who took oath as the CM, were administered the oath of the office. Asked about the meeting, Shiv Sena leader and Home Minister Eknath Shinde told Marathi news channel ‘ABP Majha’ that the chief minister will give official information about the cabinet expansion.

Earlier in the day, Sharad Pawar told reporters that allocation of portfolios is the prerogative of the chief minister. “We also are waiting when our colleagues will be invited to take oath,” the NCP chief said. His remarks came against the backdrop of reports that the cabinet expansion was getting delayed due to Congress.

Responding to a query whether the NCP’s list of ministers is ready, Pawar said his party doesn’t take much time to finalise anything. “We don’t have to go anywhere to seek anybody’s permission,” he said in an apparent jibe at the ally Congress. A senior Congress leader had said that ministerial faces will be decided after holding discussions with the party high-command in Delhi. The opposition BJP had targetted the MVA government ahead of the recently-held winter session of the state legislature over delay in allocating ministries.

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